Three Must-Read Outdoor Stories Nominated for National Magazine Awards

Topping the list: hunting hacks, hermits, and the history of fire.

 

On Thursday, January 15, the American Society of Magazine Editors announced the National Magazine Awards 2015 finalists. The nominations largely skew toward general-interest reportage (à la The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, etc.) but three of the shortlisted articles focus on outdoor-related subjects. 

We’ve provided links and excerpts from these stories below and applaud the good folks at Backpacker, GQ, and Outdoor Life for publishing them. The subject matters of these pieces extend beyond what we typically cover here at Sporting Classics, but the merits of the stories warrant them a read nonetheless. 

   

 

DIY Special: 51 Skills, Projects, and Hacks to Improve Your Hunting and Fishing
Outdoor Life, April 2014.

 

Cure a Gun-Shy Dog:

For her to overcome the fear, you must let her chase, catch, play with, and even kill prey. Don’t worry about bad habits; you can fix those later. (Besides, if you can’t correct the gun-shyness, they won’t matter.) Catching prey must be the dog’s overriding desire .  .  . 

Throw a bird or release a rabbit and let the dog chase it. As she begins to chase, have a buddy fire a .22-caliber blank, 12-gauge primer popper, or even a cap gun from a distance of 100 yards or more. With a high enough prey drive and a small enough bang from a great enough distance, the dog shouldn’t even notice, which is exactly what you want.

 

 

The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit
by MICHAEL FINKEL. GQ, September 2014.

  

The hermit set out of camp at midnight, carrying his backpack and his bag of break-in tools, and threaded through the forest, rock to root to rock, every step memorized. Not a boot print left behind. It was cold and nearly moonless, a fine night for a raid, so he hiked about an hour to the Pine Tree summer camp, a few dozen cabins spread along the shoreline of North Pond in central Maine. With an expert twist of a screwdriver, he popped open a door of the dining hall and slipped inside, scanning the pantry shelves with his penlight .  .  . 

[The hermit] stated that over all those years he slept only in a tent. He never lit a fire, for fear that smoke would give his camp away. He moved strictly at night. He said he didn’t know if his parents were alive or dead. He’d not made one phone call or driven in a car or spent any money. He had never in his life sent an e-mail or even seen the Internet.

 

 

The Complete Guide to Fire
Edited by CASEY LYONS. Backpacker, October 2014.

    

The Best Fire Story Ever Told: 

At some point, my sixth grade English teacher peered over her desk at the simple, unformed minds entrusted to her and thought: “I must destroy them.” This is the only way I can reconcile assigning Jack London’s short story “To Build a Fire” to students then steeped in a reading curriculum designed to reinforce a certainty that the world was a just and magical place. We had a long way to fall .  .  . 

Maybe it was my naiveté that helped me identify with the hiker, because neither of us were prepared for what was coming. He was thinking more about the bacon he was going to fry than the thickness of ice on that creek. And after a few thousand words of trial and error, but mostly error, he faced grave consequences I’d never imagined. By the end of the story, I was a twitching wreck, wondering whether I would try to bear hug my dog to death to warm myself should my hands ever become frostbitten slabs. I spent a sleepless night, a meaningless speck in the indifferent void of eternity. The next morning’s Scooby-Doo was cold comfort, indeed.  

  

 

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Cover image: Thinkstock/Jupiterimages